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The Yankees turn to CC Sabathia to save their season

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The Yankees have been down 0-2 in seven-game playoff series a bunch of times. Heck, on four of those occasions they won the dang World Series. If Yankees fans are despairing on this Monday, they just need to think back to 1996, 1978, 1958 or 1956 and realize that all is not yet lost.

Going down 0-3, though? That can’t happen.

To be sure, it’s not completely unheard of for a team to come back from an 0-3 deficit in a seven-game playoff series. The Yankees bore witness to that when the 2004 Boston Red Sox did it. The other 34 teams that have found themselves in that position, however, have all gone on to lose. As such, it’s not crazy to say that, if the Yankees lose to the Houston Astros tonight and fall to 0-3 in the ALCS, their season is basically over.

Lucky for them they have their stopper on the mound.

It’s been a few years since CC Sabathia has been thought of as an ace, but he has been a stopper. As Christian Red of the New York Daily News noted yesterday, Sabathia took the hill ten times following a Yankees loss in 2017. In those starts he went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. I don’t think certain pitchers have some supernatural ability to be better after their team loses — Sabathia himself is on record saying that he doesn’t approach such starts any differently — but there certainly has to be value in having been around enough and in enough big situations that they don’t faze you. Sabathia may or may not win, but he isn’t gonna be fazed tonight.

Sabathia is not a horse anymore, and Joe Girardi has been relatively quick to pull him. Sometimes too quick, arguably, as was the case in Game 2 of the ALDS when he was cruising against the Indians before the team’s wheels fell off. But he’s been effective for the Yankees, pitching  into the sixth inning of that start and allowing two runs in four and a third innings in Game 5. Again, not acelike stuff, but in an era where quick hooks are the norm in postseason play rather than the exception, it’s good enough. Especially when with the strong Yankees bullpen.

Run prevention isn’t exactly the Yankees biggest problem, though. The powerful Astros offense has come up big in a couple of key spots, obviously, but they’ve only scored four runs in their two wins. That’s been enough given the dominant starts from Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.  What the Yankees really need their moribund bats to wake up. So far in this series New York is hitting a meager .159 (10-for-63) with 27 strikeouts, four walks and 16 total bases. Aaron Judge is 1-for-7 with three strikeouts in the ALCS and 2-for-27 with 19 strikeouts in the ALDS and ALCS combined. Gary Sanchez is 0-for-7 in this series and 4-for-30 since the wild-card game, going hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

Luckily for them they face Charlie Morton tonight and not a Cy Young-caliber starter. Morton started Game 4 of ALDS, allowing two runs on seven hits in four and a third innings. The Red Sox made him work in that game, seeing 83-pitches. The Yankees will want to be patient against him too so that they can get into the Astros’ little-used bullpen. For what it’s worth, Morton has seen the Yankees twice this year, going 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA.

Whether it’s a big game from Sabathia or a big game from their offense, the Yankees need something to go right for them tonight. Only elimination games are literally must-win games, but if they lose tonight they’ll be staring a virtually insurmountable 0-3 deficit in the face. As such tonight is, for all practical purposes, a must-win affair.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 10, Marlins 9: The Braves rallied for six runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the ninth to walk off winners on getaway day against the Marlins. The Marlins took a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning after Lewis Brinson cracked a grand slam down the left field line. Miguel Rojas hit a two-run homer in the seventh to bring the Marlins’ lead back to six runs at 8-2. The Braves entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 9-4, but Marlins relievers Brad Ziegler and Tayron Guerrero both melted down. Here’s what happened. It’s the Braves’ largest ninth-inning comeback in exactly eight years, when this happened:

Red Sox 5, Orioles 0: J.D. Martinez homered twice, tying teammate Mookie Betts for the major league lead in home runs with 15. Andrew Benintendi also homered and picked up three hits. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven. The Orioles had their opportunities, racking up 13 hits, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and only one of their 13 hits went for extra bases. The Orioles’ 13 hits were the most compiled by a team that was shut out since August 25, 2008 when the Dodgers racked up 13 while being shut out by the Phillies. It’s only the 22nd time it’s happened dating back to 1908, according to Baseball Reference.

Athletics 9, Blue Jays 2: Daniel Mengden was magnificent for the A’s, tossing seven scoreless frames on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Marcus Semien hit a two-run home run and Matt Chapman picked up three hits. The Jays committed four errors on what was a very forgettable afternoon.

Cubs 6, Reds 1: Things haven’t been going well this year for Yu Darvish, but they did go well at least on Sunday afternoon. The right-hander held the Reds to a lone run on two hits and three walks with seven punch-outs across six innings, lowering his ERA on the season to 4.95. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez hit back-to-back homers in the second inning off of Tyler Mahle. Joey Votto was the only Red to have more than one hit.

Mets 4, Diamondbacks 1: Clay Buchholz made his first start in over a year and it went well. He held the Mets to one run, which came on Amed Rosario‘s solo home run in the top of the sixth, ultimately the hit that knocked Buchholz out of the game. Rosario added another homer in the seventh, when the Mets scored three runs to take a lead they’d never relinquish. Noah Syndergaard fanned seven in seven innings, giving up one run on six hits and a walk. D-Backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt remains mired in a season-long slump. He went 1-for-4 with a single and now owns an uncharacteristic .690 OPS.

Padres 8, Pirates 5: The Padres rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth, turning a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 lead. They rapped out five singles and benefited from an error as well. Christian Villanueva hit his 12th homer of the season, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. Austin Meadows knocked his first major league homer.

Dodgers 7, Nationals 2: This was mostly a clinic on power, as the Dodgers hit three homers, one each from Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez, and Yasiel Puig. Trea Turner hit one for the Nationals. Alex Wood pitched well, holding the Nationals to two runs on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts, but left the game after apparently injuring himself warming prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. Stephen Strasburg gave up three runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

White Sox 3, Rangers 0: This one was all Reynaldo Lopez. The 24-year-old fired eight shutout frames, yielding only two hits and two walks while striking out eight. In doing so, he lowered his ERA to 2.98. The three runs came on a solo homer from Welington Castillo in the second and a two-run Leury Garcia single in the third.

Yankees 10, Royals 1: Tyler Austin blasted a pair of homers, giving him eight on the season. Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine also homered for the Yankees in what was a drubbing of the lowly Royals. Sonny Gray went eight innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts. The Yankees now have a major league-best 30-13 record while the Royals drop to 14-32. Only the White Sox (.302) have a worse winning percentage than the Royals (.304).

Cardinals 5, Phillies 1: Jack Flaherty was phenomenal for the Cardinals, striking out 13 batters while limiting the Phillies to a run on two hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings. 21-year-old Freddy Peralta also struck out 13 earlier this season. Before Flaherty and Peralta, the last pitcher younger than 23 years old to strike out 13 in a game was Noah Syndergaard nearly three years ago against the Diamondbacks. Aaron Nola, who has been ace-like all year for the Phillies, didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, surrendering four runs over six innings to the Cardinals. Rhys Hoskins homered but Odubel Herrera‘s on-base streak finally ended at 45 consecutive games. It’s tied for the fourth-longest in Phillies history.

Twins 3, Brewers 1: Logan Morrison knocked in two runs with a single to right field in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 1-1 tie. That proved to be the game-winning hit as Fernando Rodney came in and struck out the side in the top of the ninth to seal the deal.

Giants 9, Rockies 5: The Giants scored nine runs for a second consecutive day. Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Belt, and Nick Hundley each homered, accounting for six of the nine runs. Nice. The Rockies got three hits each from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story but it wasn’t enough. Starters Ty Blach and Tyler Anderson both had forgettable days on the mound, giving up five and four runs in 5 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively.

Angels 5, Rays 2: Shohei Ohtani continued to pitch well, holding the Rays to a pair of runs on six hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. With seven major league starts under his belt, he’s sporting a 3.35 ERA. He’s also batting .321/.367/.619. Sergio Romo started for the Rays for a second day in a row. He pitched an inning yesterday before giving way to Ryan Yarbrough. This time, he got four outs before Matt Andriese relieved him. Martin Maldonado homered for the Angels; Johnny Field went yard for the Rays. Matt Duffy collected three hits as well.

Tigers, Mariners (11 innings): Mitch Haniger hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extras. Jean Segura broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 11th with an RBI single. Tigers starter Francisco Liriano brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning but lost it when Haniger singled to center. Liriano ended up giving up the one hit and walking three while striking out five on 102 pitches over eight scoreless innings.

Astros 3, Indians 1: Lance McCullers had his best stuff working, bringing a bid for a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He ended up going seven frames, giving up just a hit and two walks with eight strikeouts. Brian McCann broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run off of Carlos Carrasco.